Vancouver, B.C. – Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is testing schools to keep children and youth safe from radon gas, the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. As a proactive measure radon detection devices are being placed in classrooms in North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Sea-to-Sky, Sunshine Coast, Powell River and Central Coast.
“Radon levels across the VCH region are typically low in comparison to the rest of the province. In the past in our Coastal region though, a small percentage of homes tested above the guideline levels,” says Dr. James Lu, Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health. “In doing this testing now we want to confirm that levels in schools are low, as a part of our ongoing commitment to the health and safety of students and staff. At the same time, we’re hoping to encourage people to take action and test their homes.”
The detectors will be placed in classrooms starting this month and will not impact school activities. After three months the detectors will be analyzed at a lab and results will be given to the school districts and parents.
Radon is a colourless, odourless, and radioactive gas formed by the breakdown of uranium in soil and rock. The gas enters buildings through cracks and openings in floors and foundation walls.
Radon can accumulate in enclosed spaces, such as within buildings. Long-term exposure to elevated levels can cause lung cancer. It is estimated that 16 per cent of all lung cancer deaths in Canada are related to radon exposure. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and the second leading cause in smokers.
Vancouver Coastal Health encourages everyone to test their homes for radon. “Considering how much time we spend in our homes, ultimately we’d like people to test their homes, especially in the winter” says Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health. "Testing is simple and inexpensive and can help protect you and your family from a leading cause of preventable lung cancer.”
A limited number of low-cost kits are available through a study at Simon Fraser University. Information can be found at www.sfu.ca/radon. Home testing kits are available at hardware stores and through the BC Lung Association for $30 at www.radonaware.ca or by calling 1-800-665-LUNG (5864).
Vancouver Coastal Health is responsible for the delivery of $3.3 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola. VCH also provides highly specialized care and services for people throughout BC, and is the province’s hub of health care education and research.